Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Tree of Exceptions

March 28th, 2017

Thanks to the invitation of Pimary art residency in Hong Kong's New Territories, I have the chance to explore the rural side of our city, and its unique histories. My new project, "Tree of Exceptions", will be a large-scale painting installation two storeys high of tree roots, trunks and limbs.

Vandyke and Cyanotype photosensitive inks will be imprinted with the memories of people from Hong Kong villages near the Chinese border.

An exploration of place, rootedness, and returning home.

2017-03-05 17.33.20

Mr. Leung examines a fan listing Chinese dynasties to pinpoint the date of his family's arrival in the village (around 1644, beginning of the Qing dynasty). The Hakka were banished to the mountains and the seas of China by northern Qing emperors. "We didn't choose this place for any particular reason to create a village, we just migrated until there was food, and then we stopped." — in Lo Tsz Tin, Hong Kong.

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Mrs. Shum moved here from Guangdong 20 years ago to join her husband, whose family comes from the village. "People used to gather here, outside in the lanes chatting. We would eat together in the open area near the village hall. Our doors were always open wide, never locked. Life is different now." Her husband passed away a few months ago. She gave us passion fruits from her garden, tangy and sweet.

2017-03-11 17.56.43

Mr. Shek ("Mr. Stone") and his wife moved to this fishing village 40 years ago, when the island where they'd grown up was immersed by a reservoir (Plover Cove). Ever since, they've run this wonton shop twelve hours a day, six days a week. Their soup's pungent with the fish dried and ground to flavor it. All their ingredients are handmade, of the old style no longer easily found in HK. Though their children are grown and they no longer need to work, they have no plans to stop. "If we didn't have this restaurant, we wouldn't know what to do." Photo and translation by Chen Kai Ping. — in Sam Mun Tsai, Hong Kong.

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Master Li Chuen Lam shows Kai Ping a book of Hakka Kung fu masters in which he's included. Though Master Li's ancestors were among the founders of the village three and a half centuries ago, his family couldn't afford the HK $10/month for kung fu lessons, so he started learning by watching others. Among many other things, he is officially authorized to teach the Unicorn Dance.


A fisherman in the village of Sam Mun Tsai contributes his signature to the project


Carman works seven days a week. On weekends, she runs an organic farm, Shan Ha Long Cheong 


Photos of the installation as a work-in-progress here.

The project reviewed in the South China Morning Post.

Completed installation photos here

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Open Studio 2017

January 9th, 2017

If you're in Hong Kong, you're welcome to stop by my annual Open Studio. Fresh work hangs on the walls in the bright Blue Gallery space of YCIS, the international school where I work as artist-in-residence. 

To visit, contact me for directions.

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Happy New Year 2017

December 31st, 2016

HK by the sea 2

Image from tests for a recent project, exploring sharks fins, one of Hong Kong's more lucrative products (by weight). Our fair city is a center for the controversial trade; half of the world's shark fins are sold here.

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China Obscura at Shenzhen City Art Fair

November 7th, 2016

China Obscura Installation @ Shenzhen City Art Fair

Panoramic photo of China Obscura installation of Cyanotype paintings and prints in Shenzhen, China, November 2016

Click photo above to view full size.

Shenzhen has become a center for Chinese design, and is an exciting young city near Hong Kong. At 7 million people, it's about the same size. 

I was thrilled to represent San Francisco's stARTup Art Fair with the China Obscura installation at Shenzhen City Art Fair this weekend.






A photo posted by Elizabeth Briel (@ebrielart) on





Sunlight passes through handmade paper permeated with Cyanotype blue. Calligraphy is Mao's distinctive handwriting on a window design typical of Beijing hutong architecture

Couldn't have done it without the help from translators like Percy, who has the work ethic that's made the region so successful: while finishing an MA in Simultaneous Translation, he's also co-owner of a PR company for auto racing events.

With Percy, translator in Shenzhen

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Blue Brushes

September 8th, 2016

Blue Brushes

Hake brushes blue from cyanotype chemicals

Studio shipment arrived from Beijing this week. Now my brushes are back, it's time to get painting in the new studio.

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Hong Kong as Home

August 8th, 2016

Yau Ma Tei Windows

Vintage windows in my short-term rental in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

Ten years ago, I moved to Hong Kong for love, following a husband who lived here. Now, I return for life.

I work as Artist-in-Residence for an educational foundation. They have recently transferred me to Hong Kong, and I look forward to beginning a new life here. There are many new paintings in the works, and a studio to make them in.  

Kowloon Tong Studio

Our Artist-in-Residence studio in Kowloon Tong. Contact me if you'd like to visit

Maybe it was meant to be.

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Greenbacks in Washington DC

July 26th, 2016

This week, the Greenbacks Project comes to Washington DC.

The Greenbacks Project explores ties between the US and China through our currencies. I am carving 500 USD and 500 Chinese Yuan into a large-scale artwork. Stop by and view the work in progress, and contribute a word you think of, related to money.

Greenbacks in Progress

Greenbacks in progress

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APEC Blue in Santa Monica

June 17th, 2016

"APEC Blue" is the name Beijingers gave the city's brilliant skies for a week in winter 2014. Ten thousand factories had been closed, and millions of cars banned before and during the APEC conference. The city shut down as world leaders – including President Obama – converged on China's capital. Roads were peaceful, the air was fresh, and we were chilled as coal-fired heating was turned off to ensure skies remained clear. 

APEC Blue Study Version 1

APEC Blue, Cyanotype painting on handmade paper, 14 x 20 inches (36x5cm), 2016

"APEC Blue" incorporates traditional Chinese Cracked Ice motifs.

Beneath a thin layer of gesso are printed texts in English and Chinese, from articles on Beijing's 'airpocalypse' incidents (when hazardous pollution rises to levels beyond index) and the Chinese government's threats to the US Embassy after they broadcast real pollution levels.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, you're welcome to view the artwork at bG Gallery's Spectrum Gestalt show. It opens tomorrow 18th June, 5-8pm.

I'll be present at "Reception 2", Saturday 2nd July from 4-7pm.

You're welcome to meet me there.

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Farewell Beijing

June 8th, 2016

Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City Installation, Beijing

China Obscura installation Beijing, Cyanotype paintings "Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City" digitally printed on vinyl, dimensions variable, June 2016

Just before leaving Beijing, I mounted this installation of prints of my paintings, the last while living in the city that has been home for 4+ years.

"Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City" depicts the structure built in memory of Concubine Zhen by her sister, a place to meditate in remembrance. Zhen was reputedly thrown into a well by eunuchs on the orders of Dowager Empress Cixi. Inside the original cyanotype are maps of the legation quarter, to which foreigners were virtually confined and later attacked on Cixi's orders, and calligraphy by her as well.

Like most of the series, the original paintings are are pairs of perspectives, different views of the same structure seen in polarizing ways.

Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City

"Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City", 144 x 200cm (56 x 78 in), Cyanotype painting on mulberry / bamboo paper, 2015 

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StARTup Art Fair Installation, China Obscura

May 1st, 2016

China Obscura installation at StARTup Art Fair, San Francisco

Couch, carpet, shades of blue

Office Windows of the Great Dictator, 2015

Design: View into and out of Mao's office windows from his villa Meiling (Wuhan), a retreat he nicknamed "Home of the White Clouds and Yellow Cranes"

Mourning Chamber installation

Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City, 2015

Design: View into and out of the mourning chamber built for Concubine Zhen by her sister. Zhen was reputedly thrown into a well by eunuchs by orders of Dowager Empress Cixi

Mourning Chamber in the Forbidden City

Assassin's Windows & Bedroom of Nostalgia

The Martyr's Front Door

Rebels' Hideout & Assassins' Windows

Doug setting up installation

A friend and lighting designer helped set up the exhibition.

Original Cyanotype paintings line the walls. Installation materials covering the floor were printed in Beijing and later donated to Artspan and Root Division, arts charities in San Francisco, for painting dropcloths.

More photos of the installation here.

Painting during opening night

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